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Bitcoin Remains a Dangerous Wager Despite Recent Rally

Americans have a high degree of uncertainty about crypto. Only 20 percent have ever owned it, according to a nationally representative survey of 3,208 adults conducted by Consumer Reports from June to July 2022. At least 1 in 5 say they don’t know whether their friends or family own crypto, whether they’d use crypto in different ways, or how crypto firms should be regulated. And there’s substantial public support for crypto regulations. Sixty-two percent of Americans who have heard of crypto say crypto businesses should be regulated the same as other financial businesses, according to CR’s survey.

However, despite the public’s seeming desire for more clarity, financial regulators are still figuring things out about cryptocurrencies. Are they securities like stocks and bonds or are they commodities like gold and oil? Should they continue trading on unregulated non-bank exchanges (famous for their Super Bowl ads featuring stars—like comedian Larry David—who say you don’t really need to understand crypto in order to invest in it) or should crypto-trading happen on highly regulated bank platforms that are mostly shut out of the market? 

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other government regulators are aware of the dangers the current uncertain climate can present to the millions of retail investors who still have billions of dollars tied up in the market—or who may be considering putting their money into it. 

In March the Biden administration released an executive order embarking on a comprehensive approach to the regulation of cryptocurrency and other digital assets. Then in April, SEC chairman Gary Gensler said his agency and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are examining crypto regulatory issues. (The SEC regulates securities like stocks and bonds, and the CFTC regulates commodities like oil and gold.) 

“I’ve asked staff to consider how best to register and regulate platforms where the trading of securities and non-securities is intertwined. In particular, I’ve asked staff to work with the CFTC on how we jointly might address such platforms that might trade both crypto-based security tokens and some commodity tokens, using our respective authorities,” he said. 

Banks also would like more clarity from regulators and say they wish the authorities would hurry up in making rules to govern how they might be able to participate in the market. In August, the American Banking Association sent a letter to the Biden administration requesting that it step up efforts to clarify regulations. It says banks are a safer alternative for investors looking to invest in crypto because they’re highly regulated, but without clearer rules on how to join in, the bank group says its members can’t offer their services effectively. 

“The combination of these two approaches—inaction on the one hand to bring into the regulatory perimeter non-bank crypto companies, and limitation on the other of banks’ ability to engage responsibly in the digital asset market—creates an environment that makes it nearly impossible for responsible financial innovation to occur in this space, causing it to remain in the Wild West,” wrote Brooke Ybarra, head of the American Bankers Association’s office of innovation.  

However, as banks seek ways to enter the crypto investing market more robustly, senators including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have called on the Office of The Comptroller of the Currency to walk back rules issued during the Trump administration that had given them some ability to participate. The senators say they’re concerned that the rules “may have exposed the banking system to unnecessary risk,” citing the recent meltdown.

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu defended the regulator’s moves. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” he said on Bloomberg. “See Exhibit A: A whole bunch of stuff just happened, and the banking system is in pretty good shape, knock on wood. I think part of that is the actions we’ve taken.”

However, until regulators issue clearer rule making, crypto is likely to continue to be extremely volatile and risky. And even when regulators do issue their new rules, they’ll undoubtedly have a big impact on the price of digital currencies.

Here are four more reasons to be cautious about investing in cryptocurrency.


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US Fed vice chair calls for urgent regulation in cryptocurrency market

ANKARA 

Vice Chair of the US Federal Reserve, Lael Brainard, called for urgent regulation Friday in the cryptocurrency market.

“The recent turbulence and losses among retail investors in crypto highlight the urgent need to ensure compliance with existing regulations and to fill any gaps where regulations or enforcement may need to be tailored—for instance, for decentralized protocols and platforms,” she said at the Bank of England Conference in London.

“As we consider how to address the potential future financial stability risks of the evolving crypto financial system, it is important to start with strong basic regulatory foundations,” she said.

Brainard stressed that innovation has made financial services faster, cheaper and reduced costs in finance but added that some costs are also necessary to keep the system safe.

She cited the price collapse of the controversial stablecoin TerraUSD, also known as UST, in June, which led to turmoil in the crypto market.

“The Terra crash reminds us how quickly an asset that purports to maintain a stable value relative to fiat currency can become subject to a run,” she said. “The collapse of Terra and the previous failures of several other unbacked algorithmic stablecoins are reminiscent of classic runs throughout history. New technology and financial engineering cannot by themselves convert risky assets into safe ones.”

Brainard emphasized that regulatory foundations for the crypto financial system should be established before the crypto ecosystem becomes large and poses risks to the stability of the broader financial system.



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Many put faith in cryptocurrency but crash could lead to regulation and new consumer protections

Max Moulder is doing whatever he can to make ends meet.

He’s taken a shot at being an Uber driver.

He’s drawing on his life-long trade of cutting and selling gemstones.

But odd jobs are not earning him enough to keep up with the growing cost of living.

“I’ve done gemstone cutting and trading for a long, long time — since I was 10 years old — that’s not paid off for me,” he said.

“It’s very difficult doing Uber driving with the cost of petrol. That’s not working. And I can’t do cabinet making anymore. So I’m running out of options really.”

In his mind, there’s just one option left: to invest in crypto.

A Caucasian male, wearing a blue polo shirt, looking at the camera.
Max Moulder bought cryptocurrency in the hope its value will rise.(ABC News)

“I feel like I’ve been forced into this,” he told ABC News.

Mr Moulder only started investing three weeks ago when the market tanked. He’s put in $1,000 so far and is willing to invest a lot more.

His view is that he’s buying cheap and so “it can only go upwards from here”.

It is faith, rather than investment fundamentals, that has left Mr Moulder, and millions of other investors around the world, either already suffering or being vulnerable to massive losses.

One in nine Australians bought crypto in the past year

Consumer advocacy group Choice has found that one in nine Australians have bought cryptocurrencies in the past year and that number is expected to keep rising.

Half of them see crypto as a long-term investment, rather than short term speculation and two in five see it as a diversification of their portfolio.

Patrick at his computer at his work office.
Choice’s Patrick Veyret says more consumer protections are needed.  (ABC News: John Gunn)

“People have really been harmed, and the system is really rigged against consumers,” said Patrick Veyret, senior policy adviser for consumer group CHOICE.

“And that’s why we’re calling for stronger consumer protections and strong obligations on cryptocurrency exchanges.”

Since November (when Bitcoin hit a record high of $US69,000), about $US1.5 trillion has been wiped off the value of the entire cryptocurrency market. That’s more than half its value erased in just six months.

Posted , updated 


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First bankers, now lawyers: cryptocurrency industry’s latest hiring frenzy

The cryptocurrency industry is ramping up efforts to recruit more legal talent as it faces increased regulatory pressure while looking to be accepted by and become part of mainstream finance.

Crypto exchanges and companies are poaching attorneys left and right, from both law firms and other crypto companies, bringing them in-house to help navigate an evolving regulatory landscape while helping to curb outside legal expenses, industry participants said. Law firms, which are sometimes losing their partners to in-house positions, are also building up their crypto practices to maintain that valuable expertise.

The increased demand for lawyers also marks a turning point for crypto, whose early supporters often expressed scepticism of regulation. The industry has been expanding rapidly with hopes of attracting more mainstream investment opportunities and many are embracing the stance that they want regulatory clarity.

“In [the crypto] space, the consensus is you need to have someone in-house early,” said John Wolf Konstant, a senior consultant at technology-focused legal recruiting firm Whistler Partners. “Especially since investors are going to require that, you need to have someone there to help chaperone the process and to make sure everything is buttoned up from the start.”

READ Meet six former bankers who quit for crypto: ‘My phone rings off the hook’

Competition is also driving up salaries in the crypto space at a faster rate than in the larger in-house legal market, particularly for senior-level positions, Konstant said. Total annual packages, including tokens and equity, can run into seven figures at the very top of the market, he added.

Marco Santori, chief legal officer of Kraken, tweeted in February that the San Francisco-based crypto exchange was looking to hire 30 lawyers in the next three months. He added that he would like to hire 60, “but honestly I don’t know how to get it done”.

“Kraken legal is fully on track with its hiring goals since my comments in February,” Santori said last week in an email. “We are attracting the best lawyers from both traditional finance and white-shoe firms. The brain drain is real and we couldn’t be happier with it.”

Lawyer Jorge Pesok recently joined crypto-based nonprofit HBAR Foundation, which gives out grants to projects, as its chief legal officer after about 10 months as general counsel and chief compliance officer at crypto exchange Tacen. Before Tacen, he was at law firm Crowell & Moring.

“The market is hot,” Pesok said, adding that he received four job offers before he chose HBAR, primarily because of its commitment to sustainability, and he wasn’t even looking for a new position. “Everybody is looking for talent,” he said, adding that for HBAR, even the simple grants it makes require help, given the nuances of cryptocurrency and the regulatory scrutiny around the industry.

Recruiter Whistler Partners said about 10% to 15% of all recent placements have been in the crypto or financial technology sectors, with firms hiring for both in-house counsel and law firm positions, according to Konstant, who himself was a lawyer before moving to the recruiting field. He said the firm was working on six to 10 in-house legal jobs in the blockchain or fintech space over the past year at any given time.

Konstant said there is a great deal of competition for all legal talent across sectors, where candidates for in-house roles may receive multiple offers. But “for the crypto space, it’s more pronounced,” he said, adding that there is a huge demand for those with specialised knowledge in crypto and previous experience working at law firms that specialised in crypto or having built in-house crypto-focused teams.

As with most other jobs, firms operating in the crypto sector would prefer to hire someone with some relevant direct experience, but most expect to train new legal staff on the job as they learn about the specific projects each firm does.

Gregory Lisa, who most recently was a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells in Washington DC, joined decentralised financed-focused company Element Finance as its first chief legal officer in December. Lisa, who previously worked as a regulator at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said his new position at the 25-person startup, which builds open-source protocol for fixed- and variable-yield tokens, offers him the chance to focus on the growth of one company, versus a portfolio of clients as an external counsel. His responsibilities now include engaging with regulators and law enforcement and managing internal legal issues.

READ Why crypto firms are hunting for exec talent at Washington’s revolving door

“You really get a chance to write the script and to engage with companies at an early stage,” Lisa said, adding that he has also stayed on as a special adviser for Hogan Lovells to help with the transition.

Cathy Yoon joined crypto technology company MPCH at the end of March as its chief legal officer after less than a year as general counsel of crypto exchange INX. She said she had no intention of moving jobs, but was interested in helping build blockchain infrastructure that could more easily support and onboard additional blockchain assets, which isn’t possible currently. So far, her day-to-day work includes managing internal corporate matters, such as the structuring of legal entities and intellectual property issues, and facilitating meetings with potential investors and customers.

The increasingly competitive job market also demands more lawyers who are “very commercial,” Yoon said, since crypto companies want to bring in attorneys early on to brainstorm with tech teams on what problems their products are meant to solve. “There has been a shift from lawyers being seen as ‘keeping us out of trouble,’ to becoming important members of the management team,” she said.

READ Fintech Files: Meet the disrupters, how to make $1m in crypto, and a new arms race

Law firms, some already struggling with a shortage of talent, are beefing up their crypto services as well, sometimes looking to acquire a whole team from other firms.

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is looking to build “a complete offering” of services for blockchain firms, from helping with entity formation to advising on regulatory issues, according to Daniel Forester, a partner at the firm and leader of its fintech practice. The law firm, with roots in the traditional technology sector, currently has about 20 partners leading its crypto-related work and is looking to lure current regulators and candidates or teams from other law firms or in-house positions, he said.

Facing increasing competition for legal talent, Forester said Orrick continues to focus on retaining employees, including those at the associate level. “There are more positions than people,” he said of the legal industry as a whole. “The key to long-term success is retention.

Write to Mengqi Sun at mengqi.sun@wsj.com

This article was published by The Wall Street Journal, part of Dow Jones


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Why more bankers are leaving stable jobs for the high-flying world of cryptocurrency

Pamela Draper at her office in Calgary on April 14. Draper made the switch in 2018 after working for banks for 14 years and is now the President & CEO of a cryptocurrency trading platform Bitvo.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

Four years ago, Pamela Draper said her colleagues were astonished that she was leaving investment banking for crypto. Today, many of them are following in her footsteps.

Ms. Draper was working in investment banking at Bank of Montreal when a client approached her with a proposal: move from Toronto to Calgary and help him start a cryptocurrency exchange company.

“My first response, was ‘absolutely not,’ ” she said.

But over the 2017 Christmas holidays, her feelings changed: This was not just a new job, she realized. After 14 years in banking, it was a rare chance to join a new industry on the “ground floor” and build a business from scratch, alongside experienced shareholders.

By the time those holidays were over, she said, her feelings had turned. “I went from ‘how could I do this’ to ‘how could I pass up this opportunity?‘ ”

When Ms. Draper became chief executive at Bitvo Inc., a cryptocurrency exchange now with more than 14,000 users across the country, she was one of the first bankers to enter the then-nascent sector in Canada.

“Four years later, a lot of my ex-colleagues at the Bank of Montreal have come into this world,” she said. “It’s great to work with them again on this side of the fence.”

Today, the cryptocurrency landscape has grown legs: It has expanded in value, in public engagement, and in regulation. An influx of capital into the space in recent years has meant that many crypto companies are on the hunt for talent, especially for people with experience in regulation, investment and payment systems. These abilities are often held by employees working in TradFi – traditional finance.

The demand means a growing flow of professionals are leaving traditional banking jobs and embracing a sector once considered too risky.

While the crypto world is not yet large enough to make a significant dent in the hiring ability of big banks – which together employ hundreds of thousands – it is adding some pressure to an already tight market. The past two years have brought bounty to the banks through a record number of mergers and acquisitions, and this demand for bank employees has created a shortage of talent.

Guy Shaul, recruiter for executive search company Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., said his company’s crypto department has grown steadily larger over the past year as financial professionals shift their thinking about roles in the growing field.

“When we first started working in this space, we would call people and would have to try to convince them that our clients weren’t laundering money,” said Mr. Shaul, who is based in London, England. “Now, we actually have to try and work out who’s genuinely interested, because most people are open to hearing about it because there’s a lot of money being made.”

One point of attraction is the opportunity for wealth creation.

“Crypto salaries are finally starting to become competitive with TradFi,” said Tanim Rasul, chief operating officer at National Digital Asset Exchange, a Calgary-based crypto trading platform. “I think that’s a huge part of why people are starting to, not just move over, but come out of retirement to get involved.”

Mr. Rasul said his company has received thousands of applications from employees working in traditional finance. Many of the skills needed to work in a bank – such as handling mergers, investing and regulation – are transferrable to crypto companies and highly in demand, he said.

Ms. Draper said she has indeed worked directly with securities commissions to influence the shape of the regulatory landscape.

It’s an interesting paradox: While the industry itself is aiming to disrupt the existing financial ecosystem, many are turning to executives with decades of traditional experience.

Sebastien Davies is among those with a TradFi background who made the switch. After years of work at financial institutions including CIBC, Royal Bank of Canada and Rayne Capital Management Inc., he decided to leave traditional finance for a job at Aquanow, a Vancouver-based infrastructure and liquidity provider for digital assets.

“I was motivated by a real sense of curiosity. I wanted to jump into something new and innovative, and work at something totally different,” Mr. Davies said. “It’s not to say you can’t innovate when you’re working at a bank, but it’s a lot faster if you move to a startup.”

Overall, he said he has seen employees leaving the industry “at an increasing rate,” part of a wider trend of young people wanting to switch jobs more frequently.

He said he was also attracted by the “unquestionably” different culture, which prioritizes collaboration over moving up ladders. Meanwhile, the urgency of the work has made his days more unpredictable.

“At the bank, the market would open at 9:30, we’re closed at four, and I have a list of things to do on a regular basis in between. But now, I just try to jump in and figure out how I can help,” Mr. Davies said.

This, for many, is the draw: the ability to build something from scratch, from idea to “fully functioning business model available to the public,” said Bitvo’s Ms. Draper. It’s what has made her “leap of faith” worth it.

“There are very few things more rewarding than watching your company grow over the years,” she said. “And being part of growing the industry – being part of regulatory decisions and helping to shape that regulatory landscape – that’s a legacy that will stay in place for decades.”


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Washington Debates Cryptocurrency Rules, With Sights Set on Stablecoins

WASHINGTON—As Washington attempts to get its arms around the rapidly growing cryptocurrency industry, policy makers in the Biden administration and on Capitol Hill have identified stablecoins as an initial target for tighter regulation.

Often billed as one-to-one representations of a currency like the dollar, stablecoins have recently exploded in popularity as investors use them for trading other cryptocurrencies. There are dozens of stablecoins, though a handful pegged to the dollar account for most of the market value, which grew roughly 500% in the 12 months ending in October, according to a report from the Biden administration.


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UK Government Unveils Plan To Exploit Potential Of Cryptocurrency

UK Government Has Unveiled Plans To Turn Nation Into A Global Cryptoasset Technology Hub

UK Government Unveils Plan To Exploit Potential Of Cryptocurrency

On April 4, the United Kingdom unveiled a detailed strategy to harness the power of cryptocurrency assets and blockchain technology to ease the process of making payments for customers.

Financial services minister John Glen said Britain will pass legislation to bring some stablecoins under the regulatory framework, such as complying with existing payment rules.

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that are designed to have a stable value in comparison to traditional currencies or a commodity like gold, avoiding the volatility that makes Bitcoin and other digital tokens unsuitable for most transactions.

The government believes that all stablecoins that reference a fiat currency should be regulated.

Here are 10 points to know about Britain’s cryptocurrency hub push:

1) The decision to regulate stablecoins to make way for their usage as a recognised form of payment is part of a larger plan to make the UK a global hub for cryptoasset technology and investment.

2) According to the Government of the United Kingdom, legislation for a financial market infrastructure sandbox to assist firms in innovating, an FCA-led CryptoSprint, collaboration with the Royal Mint on a non-fungible token (NFT), and the formation of an engagement group to work more closely with industry are among the measures.

3) Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak instructed the Royal Mint to design an NFT to be released by the summer.

4) Sunak said that he wanted to make the UK a global powerhouse for cryptoasset technology.

5) Stablecoin issuers and service providers will be able to operate and invest in the UK if the government passes the legislation to bring them into the payments regulatory framework.

6) The government can assure financial stability and good regulatory standards by recognising the promise of this technology and regulating it. This will allow these new technologies to be utilised reliably and safely in the future.

7) John Glen also stated that the UK will explore the transformative benefits of Distributed Ledger Technology in its financial markets. The technology allows data to be synchronised and shared in a decentralised manner, potentially resulting in increased efficiency, transparency, and resilience.

8) Later this year, Britain will hold a consultation on developing legislation for a broader set of cryptoassets, such as Bitcoin, taking into account the sector’s energy use.

9) The UK’s plan also includes exploring blockchain’s potential, including if it can be used to issue British government bonds or gilts.

10) The UK will also look into lowering disincentives for fund managers while including cryptoassets in their portfolios.


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Bitcoin Price Surges on Biden’s Crypto Executive Order

WASHINGTON—Bitcoin’s price rose after President Biden announced an executive order to study digital currencies, a move the industry welcomed and skeptics decried as delaying needed regulation.

The order, titled “Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets,” directed agencies across the federal government to produce reports on digital currencies and consider new regulations. It outlined the risks cryptocurrencies pose to the economy, national security and climate, while also noting their possible benefits.

It also asked agencies to review the possibility of issuing a digital version of the dollar, tasking the Justice Department with assessing whether it would require new legislation and possibly preparing such legislation. Some central banks around the world have experimented with the concept to keep pace with private-sector payments innovations, and the Federal Reserve has already started to evaluate the possibility.

As details from the executive order leaked overnight, the price of

bitcoin,

the largest cryptocurrency, rose almost 9%. Bitcoin’s price was $41,910 Wednesday evening, according to CoinDesk.

While financial regulators have long taken a cautious view toward cryptocurrency, the executive order marked the first time the White House had weighed in formally.

Crypto advocates welcomed the absence of any imminent federal action in the order and its acknowledgment of the positive elements of the industry, such as fostering innovation and financial inclusion.

“We applaud the White House for recognizing this as a defining moment for U.S. innovation on the world stage,” said

Faryar Shirzad,

chief policy officer at the largest U.S. crypto exchange,

Coinbase Global Inc.,

in a series of tweets.

“We look forward to continuing our work with regulators and lawmakers,” he said.

The chief executive of Valkyrie Funds,

Leah Wald,

said she expects the order will lead to regulations that will further help the industry grow. “Clarity spurs adoption, and adoption leads to growth,” she said. Her firm sells crypto-focused exchange-traded funds.

The crypto industry has waged an intense lobbying campaign over the past year to stave off more-aggressive regulation of digital assets. A report this week by Public Citizen, a progressive advocacy group, said the number of cryptocurrency lobbyists nearly tripled in recent years, from 115 in 2018 to 320 in 2021. The sector’s lobbying expenditures rose to $9 million from $2.2 million.

Crypto skeptics see the executive order as a step back.

Lee Reiners,

executive director of Duke University School of Law’s Global Financial Markets Center, said it appears likely to delay any consequential policy decisions until after the midterm elections in November. In most cases, the White House is giving agencies at least 180 days to produce their reports.

“Leading up to this executive order, the narrative that had been circulating was that the administration was set to crack down on crypto,” Mr. Reiners said.

“This executive order is a complete 180 from that,” he said. “This is as close to an embrace of crypto as you could have hoped for from this Biden administration, if you’re pro-crypto.”

President Biden’s cryptocurrency executive order may have produced more questions than it has answered: What’s a central bank digital currency? How is it different from crypto? And why hasn’t the Fed introduced a digital dollar? WSJ’s Dion Rabouin explains. Photo composite: David Fang

Financial regulators have already been studying cryptocurrencies for years. The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued guidance in 2014 around cryptocurrency-payment systems. The Securities and Exchange Commission has taken scores of enforcement actions against individuals and entities in the sector, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission set up an initiative to study cryptocurrency and other technological innovations in 2017.

A senior administration official noted that the White House held a number of “Crypto Sunday” events to gather feedback from stakeholders as it prepared the executive order. A White House spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to questions about the events, such as how many were held or who participated.

SEC Chair

Gary Gensler

has said that many cryptocurrencies should be regulated as securities such as stocks and bonds, something that would involve strict disclosure requirements from issuers. Crypto firms have pushed for CFTC oversight, believing it would be easier to comply with.

Matt Kluchenek,

a partner at law firm Mayer Brown LLP, said Mr. Biden’s executive order appears unlikely to resolve such questions.

“Rather than provide direction with respect to who regulates what, the order calls for research, assessment and coordination within specified deadlines,” Mr. Kluchenek said. “Many market participants were hoping for more concrete direction.”

Industry lobbyists say that heavy-handed regulation would risk pushing more of the cryptocurrency market overseas. Some law-enforcement and national-security officials are reluctant to discourage use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, saying they allow transactions to be traced more easily than cash.

“Ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in global financial infrastructure for generations to come has never been more paramount for economic and national security interests,” said

Sigal Mandelker,

a former Treasury official in the Trump administration who is now a general partner at

Ribbit Capital,

a venture-capital firm invested in crypto. “The president’s recognition of that is an essential step in that direction.”

But investor advocates worry that the executive order will give an opportunity to dilute existing regulations.

“Silicon Valley and their army of new lobbyists may have feared the worst, and instead the White House is rolling out the welcome mat,” said

Tyler Gellasch,

executive director of the Healthy Markets Association, an investor trade group. “Politicians and lobbyists are likely to use this as an opening line to try to rewrite the securities, commodities and banking laws under the guise of better regulating crypto.”

Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Tether: Cryptocurrency Markets

Write to Paul Kiernan at paul.kiernan@wsj.com and Andrew Duehren at andrew.duehren@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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